Monthly Archives: April 2014

Swamp Tiles

I have an upcoming session planned that involves a large swamp so I’ve been working on some swampy looking tiles.  These are largely based on this video posted on Youtube by “WargamerDad”.

I started out by drawing and cutting out the necessary shapes from a sheet of hardboard acquired from Local Big Box Store.  The jigsaw worked decently enough but had the tendency to vibrate the hardboard like crazy if I wasn’t careful.  If anyone has a better method for cutting out unusual shapes, let me know!


Once I had the bases cut out for my swamp islands, I layed them on the back of a piece of sheet moss acquired from a local craft store.  (it’s found in the department with the flower arrangements)  Cut the sheet moss with scissors, glue to the hardboard, and we’re almost done already.




The finishing touches consisted of some random racks and pieces of broken fieldstone building cast using a Hirst Arts mold.  After the picture shown below I also added some pools of liquid using a couple different methods for creating water effects.  I found the one that worked the best with the sheet moss was triple-thick gloss gel purchased from the art section of the crafts store.  You’ll see these in action in an upcoming session in combination with the wooden bridges that I recently posted.

When you find yourself in a swamp, don’t go in.  Turn left instead.


A Bridge Too Far

I need some small foot bridges for an upcoming session so I picked up an assortment of wood pieces from the friendly local craft store. Cut to size, glue together, and you have something that looks like it was quickly pieced together by monstrous humanoids with about an 8 Intelligence. Perfect! I threw a coat of combo stain/sealer on to finish the job.




Initiative Tracker

This is one of those things that’s extremely simple yet effective. I have a magnetic whiteboard hung near my gaming area so imprinted up some magnetic labels with the names and AC’s of all of the player characters along with some generic labels that can represent groups of enemy combatants.

When initiative is rolled I rearrange them in order on the board so that everyone has ample warning when their turn is coming. If someone delays their action the labels can be shifted around as needed. It’s nothing fancy but it helps keep combat encounters moving along.


Hirst Arts Fieldstone Tower


This is my first attempt at a Hirst Arts project.  For anyone unfamiliar with Hirst Arts, they produce molds that you can use for creating a wide variety of terrain pieces out of plaster or other similar materials.  Their web site is and it has not only an inventory of their products but also details about how to use them as well as step-by-step plans for building a wide variety of different buildings.

The process is well documented in many other places around the net and there’s an active community that participates in the HA Message Board.  I won’t attempt to recreate the step-by-step instructions here because I can’t possibly do so with the same level of detail that you can already find from these other sources.

The high level summary of the process is:

  1. Select and purchase your mold(s).  If you look at the project plans on the HA sites, they’ll tell you exactly which molds you need.  If you’re just dabbling for the first time, you may want to select a project that only requires a single mold.  The “6” Fieldstone Tower” I built would be such a project that requires only mold #73.
  2. Select and purchase your casting material.  I bought a 40# box of a dental plaster called Hydrostone off of ebay.  It seemed towork fine but I don’t have much of a basis for comparison.  There are reviews of many different materials on the HA site.
  3. Cast your blocks.  My project required 24 castings of mold #73 which I conducted over the course of several days.  There are detailed casting instructions on the HA site.  In most situations, a casting takes about 40 minutes from the time you start mixing your plaster to the time you can pop the bricks out of the mold.  About 5 minutes of that time is active work.  The rest is just waiting for the plaster to set up.
  4. Let your bricks dry.  You can just leave them out for a few days like I did or use one of a couple tricks such as putting in them in a low oven or food dehydrator.
  5. Glue them together with white glue following the project plan.  (or not, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous)  For the most part it’s no more difficult than assembling something out of legos, just slightly more time consuming because you’ll want to let the glue dry in a few different stages before moving on to the next section.
  6. Paint them.  There are painting instructions on the HA site including the exact colors to buy from your local Wal-mart.  I’ll probably use my Pokorny Paints and some craft paint instead and see how they work out.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about trying since I first saw them at Gencon a few years ago.  I’m glad that I finally took the plunge and now I’m just trying to find time to use the other molds.  At minimum there will be an inn and a fieldstone ruin in my immediate future and I’m planning on picking up some more molds at Gencon this year.

Until your plaster sets, keep turning left.











This session continued to build on the hallucinations that were established during the previous session.  I added the dreams for the sake of foreshadowing some of the encounters to come and to mask my real purpose, which was to provide some exposition in the form of Fletcher the Bard’s dream.  I gave the party a handout with some of the history of the Vault based on the contents of that dream.  This is one of those examples of a module having a lot of interesting background information but without a good means of conveying it to the players.  Without some added content, they would’ve been largely unaware of the true nature of the dungeon they were exploring.  I thought that my solution did a passable job of conveying the information in an organic manner.

For my terrain build this week, I spent a good amount of time painting the miniatures that we’d been using to present each PC.  I made an effort to pick a different color scheme for each mini since I had been having some issues with seeing who was where from the far end of the table.

The trees for my jungle room are very visible in my picture of this session’s setup.  They were pre-made palm trees from Pegasus games.  I had to glue pennies to the base and use a little poster putty to get them to stand up on their own, which was probably more trouble than it was worth.

I did a few things using transparency sheets this week.  I drew a large grid on a transparency sheet to represent the energy fields in the “teleportation” room.  I was able to keep it hidden until somebody made a perception check to identify it and then overlay it on the room.  I cut and painted another sheet for the blood room to give the floor the blood red coloring.  It gave a little more texture than just using red paper, etc.

Overall I was very pleased with this module.  It was very much a dungeon crawl but had enough interesting elements that it wasn’t just one fight after another.  I’m a fan of the Call of Cthulhu genre and this adventure definitely had certain elements of that included.  I had a lot of fun improvising the mind-altering effects of the Vault.

That concludes the Vault of Tsathzar Rho, but the greater quest to save the world continues next time.

So, if you could go ahead and turn left, that’d be great, mmkay?

The Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho, Part 3 – Session Recap



Our heroes had a fitful night’s rest inside their extradimensional shelter with each of them experiencing strange and frightening dreams.  Reliff found himself in a thick jungle and witnessed creatures transforming into dragon-like beasts.  Solus received a message of warning from his god that great evil lay ahead.  Keaton saw visions of another plane attempting to intrude upon the prime material world.  Trog found himself drowning in an endless ocean of blood.  Finally, Keaton experienced an endless library where he was able to locate some information that he believed to be related to to the Vault and its history.

The party continued downward in spite of their ominous dreams and soon came upon a cave with an inexplicable amount of jungle-like foliage.  Growing on the trees where a number of pods containing creatures in the midst of some sort of transformation.  The group opted to spend time destroying these abominations before they could complete the process.

Moving onward, the heroes found and eliminated the kobold high priestess in her temple with walls and furnishings constructed from seemingly living body parts.  Even though the room itself fought them, the heroes prevailed.  Continuing onward they found two imprisoned derro who had gone quite mad, flinging anything within their reach at the party.  Nothing useful was found, but a few good garments were soiled on this day.

After eliminating another kobold-dragon hybrid, the party entered a room containing a humming magical field that transported them seemingly at random around the room.  The kobold guardians in this place experienced no such randomness and struck the party with great ferocity, but to no avail.  After several failed attempts to cross the room, the party eventually managed to gather themselves at the far side and continue forward into a large chamber completely filled with a pool of blood.

An anti-gravity effect caused the blood to come at the party in the form of a large wave, making it extremely difficult to keep their feet and traverse the room as they fought the kobold chieftain and his elite guards.  Reliff was knocked unconscious and nearly drowned, only to be rescued at the last minute by his companions.  Upon defeating the chieftain, the wave of blood subsided.

Continuing out of the chamber of blood, a feel of foreboding fell upon the group and it was clear that they were approaching the source of evil that they had been seeking out.  They entered the final chamber where half of the party saw an ordinary room and the other half saw an extraplanar hellscape containing the manifestation of Tsathzar Rho.  “Team Hellscape” immediately began battling the creature which took the form of a humanoid dragon or bird with long gangly arms ending in hooked claws.  “Team Real World” observed their allies fighting an unseen enemy and eventually deduced that they needed to embrace the madness in order to help, which they did.

After a long hard fight, the avatar was defeated and everyone returned to the real word.  A bright flash of light filled the area and Solus felt the presence of the gods of good filling the complex and purging any lingering sense of evil.  After catching their breath, our heroes made their way back out the way they came.  Upon reaching the exit, they found Logbrag the Ogre sound asleep and decided to leave him be.  The party returned to town to a hero’s welcome.